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Though the period has been named after Queen Victoria (whose reign lasted from 1837-1901) there is still some debate as to when the Victorian Era actually began. Many scholars believe that it was started with the Reform Act of 1832 that shook up the system of voting and political representation and sparked, amongst other things, The British Suffrage Movement.
What is undisputed is the fact that Victoria’s reign was marked by Industrial, Economic, Scientific, Cultural and Political change.
At her ascension to the throne the country, though already the most industrialised in the world, was largely agrarian and rural. When she died in 1901 the country was even more heavily industrialised and this was epitomised by the vast rail network that connected towns and cities across Britain.
There was a downside to this rail boom though, and it was felt in many major cities, but especially in London. The railway lines that were laid (over 8000km in total) required huge swathes of housing to be demolished, leaving many thousands of people homeless. This contributed, along with the massive increase in immigration (the Irish Potato Famine being the main cause) and the decline in agrarian jobs, to the overcrowding of cities.
When this overcrowding was coupled with the poor sanitary conditions that were prevalent it resulted in the early years of Victoria’s reign being blighted by a series of epidemics, notably the nationwide Cholera epidemic of 1848. What it did do was prompt the great architects of the age to design the sewerage systems and travel solutions that we still use today.
Scientifically, and religiously, the country underwent great change, as Darwin published his Origin of Species and many people began to question the Christian ideas of Creation. There was also a great movement of Spiritualism at this time.
Britain looked very different at the end of Victoria's reign to how it did at the start.